Bruce Springsteen: 2 November 2009 – Washington DC

Every time I attempt to see the Boss, disaster strikes. In May, Bruce Springsteen and company rolled through town and, needless to say, I was looking forward to the show. But on the eve of the concert, upon returning home from a trip, I discovered that my apartment had been flooded, no thanks to a busted water pipe. Out of desperation, I asked my colleague Wilson McBee if he would attend and review the show in my place while I mopped. (He kindly obliged and did one better by writing a more thoughtful review than I ever could have.) Luck was on my side, however, because just six months later Springsteen and the E Street Band were back at the Verizon Center, somehow managing to sell out the 20,000 seat Verizon Center yet again.

While there’s little to be said about this tour that Wilson hasn’t already said better, this much bears repeating: Bruce Springsteen is a consummate performer. Throughout the night, he prowled the stage tirelessly, leaving no corner of the massive room neglected. He pointed to fans, extended his microphone to all within arm’s reach and tossed priceless guitars to roadies like footballs. He waded out into the crowd to collect obscure song requests writ large on poster boards, which the band then tackled without hesitation. He brought a kid who looked all of seven years old onstage and invited him to sing a verse. By the end of the third song, he had waded out into the front rows and crowdsurfed back to the stage. Naturally, he had the audience eating out of the palm of his hand for the entire 2+ hour duration of the set.

That Springsteen is able to maintain this level of energy throughout his marathon sets night after night is remarkable–especially considering he makes his AARP contemporaries blush–though not entirely inexplicable. He seems to feed off of the audience’s energy and the audience responds in turn, cheering as loudly for the twentieth song as for the first. Midway though the set, Springsteen launched into “Born to Run”, perhaps the most definitive anthem in a catalog full of them. With the house lights raised you could clearly see 20,000 fists being raised in time with the chorus and could scarcely hear the Boss himself over the deafening roar of the crowd. Yes, it was, as Wilson noted back in May, “thrilling in a predictable way.” Yet, it was also a fantastically surreal experience and one that I’d recommend any night of the week, disasters permitting.